Belize Independence Day, celebrated on September 21, represents a great achievement for the people of Belize, who fought for many years for their freedom from Great Britain. Celebrated annually as a national holiday throughout the country, jubilant celebrations happen with parades, brilliant costumes, and music. It’s also simply the best time to be in this beautiful country. Belize is a country located at the mouth of the Hondo River on the eastern coast of Central America. It’s bordered by Guatemala to the north and Mexico to the northeast.
History of Belize Independence Day
The history of Belize dates back thousands of years. The Maya civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 B.C. and 300 A.D. and flourished until about 900 A.D. when it mysteriously collapsed. Several major archeological sites, including Caracol, Xunantunich, Lamanai, and Cerros, reflect the advanced civilization that thrived here long before Europeans arrived in the region; today, these sites are among Belize’s biggest tourist attractions.
In 1638, Spain granted title to the land to the British under their “Bay Settlement.” However, they failed to occupy or even visit the area for more than 100 years after that date. But other Europeans came, mostly buccaneers and loggers who used Belize as a base for their illegal activities. In 1763, Spain granted the British permission to cut logwood to protect their territory against pirates; this resulted in a logwood boom for many years. During this time, pirates such as Henry Morgan became legends of folklore; but it wasn’t until 1783 that Spain officially recognized Britain’s claim to the territory.
Over the next hundred years, tensions continued between Britain and Spain over Britain’s refusal to remove settlers from Spanish territory in neighboring Guatemala. Belize gained independence from Britain on September 21, 1981. It was previously known as British Honduras until 1973 when it became a self-governing colony. The country changed its name to Belize in 1973 to reflect the Maya heritage of its people. In 1981 it became an independent member of the Commonwealth before joining the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) in 1990 and the United Nations (U.N.) in 1993.
Belize Independence Day timeline
The Mayan civilization expands into the area of Belize and flourishes until about 900 A.D., when it mysteriously collapses.
Spain grants a title to the land to the British under their Bay Settlement but fails to occupy or even visit the area for more than 100 years after that date.
Spain officially recognizes Britain's claim to the territory.
Previously known as British Honduras, Belize gains its independence from Britain.
Belize Independence Day FAQs
Who founded Belize?
Members of Belize’s Creole elite invented a story that the name Belize came from the Spanish pronunciation of a Scottish buccaneer named Peter Wallace, who set up a settlement at the mouth of the Belize River.
How do many languages do they speak in Belize?
Belize has over 40 languages spoken and identified, including English, the official language, but about 25% of Belizeans speak a creole patois, and many other Belizeans speak more than one language.
Is it cheaper to live in Belize, Panama, or Costa Rica?
Using the cost of living data gathered by “U.S. Today,” Costa Rica is the least expensive of these three countries, clocking in at $1,079 per month, followed by Belize at $1,415 to $1,765 per month and Panama at $2,100 per month.
Belize Independence Day Activities
Attend a local parade
Independence Day parades are held across Belize, usually beginning in the morning and continuing well into the afternoon. Join your fellow Belizeans as they dance along to soca music and proudly wave their country's flags. The biggest parade takes place in Belize City on Albert Street — the capital city is transformed into a sea of red, blue, and white as marchers make their way down the main street.
Have a barbecue
Barbecues are one of the most popular ways to celebrate Independence Day in Belize. Host a barbecue with your family and friends. If you are looking for a specific type of cuisine, serve some traditional Belizean food. Our favorites include rice and beans, fry jacks, chin mole (a spicy soup), and bile up (a sweet dish made with rice flour).
Watch fireworks over the Caribbean Sea
As night falls, colorful fireworks light up the sky at several locations along the coast. In Placencia village, find anywhere along The Placencia Sidewalk as you enjoy a cocktail or ice cream cone from one of the sidewalk's many shops or restaurants.
5 Amazing Facts About Belize
The population is small and friendly
Belize has a population of just 355,000 people living in a country that covers an area of 22,966 square miles (roughly the size of Massachusetts).
It has an amazing Barrier Reef
Belize's barrier reef is part of the second-largest reef system in the world, after Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering an ideal habitat for fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and sailing.
Home to the Great Blue Hole
Famous explorer and marine biologist Jacques Cousteau discovered the Great Blue Hole — a diving site in the middle of an offshore coral atoll that regularly appears on lists of the world's best diving sites.
It’s the capital of ancient Maya
The Mayan Empire stretched more than a thousand miles and included modern-day Belize.
The only Jaguar preserve on the planet
Six kinds of wild cats, including pumas and jaguars, inhabit Belize, which has the only nature reserve dedicated to protecting these big cats.
Why We Love Belize Independence Day
People dress up in colorful clothing and enjoy traditional foods such as tamales, rice and beans, stew chicken, and johnnycakes. Some dishes include boiled eggs with coconut milk, potato salad, ‘escabeche’ (onion salad), ‘salbutes’ (corn tortillas), and garnishes (refried beans).
We can learn about Belize
It’s a great time to learn about Belize and its greatest asset — its people. They're welcoming and friendly and make sure visitors feel right at home.
It promotes unity
It is a day to honor the diversity of its citizens and those who have contributed to the country over the years. It is an opportunity to celebrate together for Belizeans to remember that they are a great nation.
Belize Independence Day dates